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Transit News Updates

Written and compiled by Jaime Lewis, CCDC Transit Advisor
September 2020
  • Bustang (Trinidad)
  • Layfayette Free Ride
  • RTD Summary
  • RTD Elections
  • Business Highlight

Bustang service is adding new connections in 2021. 

In January, the service will extend from Pueblo to Trinidad.  Bustang is an over the highway bus that is fully accessible.  The service connects people to rural parts of the state.  Other routes to be established in 2021 include Sterling to Greely, Telluride to Grand Junction, and Craig to Denver.  For more information and fares see www.ridebustang.com


Ride Free Layfayette

Boulder County Transit is now offering Ride Free Layfayette, a free on-demand, door-to-door bus service that connects people to places within the City of Lafayette.

  • This service will connect to the Kresnal Community in Louisville.
  • The service is open to all and there are no limits to how often you can ride.

“ A friend told me about the service when it premiered early this summer. I dismissed it. I was sure there was a catch and I wouldn’t be able to ride…because of my chair or some other reason. I was leaving work a few days later when a driver for the service asked if I was the person who requested a ride. So excited, he told me how it all worked. I smiled, thanked him and thought to myself, this is too good to be true. Then… last month another friend curious about the service challenged me to ride. She saw someone step off of a Via bus for happy hour at a local bar and asked what are you doing on Access-a – ride. He said I’m not and explained it’s a new transportation service. At first, I said no to the challenge dreading what the possibility would entail to then be denied. After thinking about it for a few minutes I decided to try. From Googling the number, calling dispatch and boarding the bus was less than 20 minutes. I felt the usual fight and pride I feel every time I roll onto an RTD bus plus something unexpected… VALUED!”

App services Uber and Lyft upgraded decades-old transportation opportunities for many but not people with disabilities … And a discount program for low-income individuals excluded access-a-ride passengers. Unlike that. Lafayette Free Ride is a model transportation service and a helpful cog for public transportation.

Dawn Russell,
Lafayette Resident, ADAPT Activist

For more information on Ride Free Layfayette go to www.cityoflayfayette.com


RTD ELECTIONS

There are three competitive races for the RTD Board of Directors. They include:

  • District G:  Julien Bouquet vs. Ken Mihalik (incumbent)
  • District H: Roger Edwards vs. Ragan Byrd vs. Doug Tisdale (incumbent)
  • District E: Uncontested: Paul Rosenthal (seat is open)
  • District A:  Kyle Bradell vs. Kate Williams (incumbent)

    CCDC requested each candidate to provide their platform or efforts in addressing accessibility for the elderly and disabled through transit.
    (DNR) = Did not Response


DISTRICT G – 2 Candidates

Ken Mihalik

Currently, RTD has two resident committees that aid and guide policies related to disabled passengers.

Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities

Access-a-Ride Paratransit Advisory committee

I am entirely supportive of elevating the attention given to these two groups by having more direct participation with the Board.

I opposed the increase to Access-a-Ride fares in 2018. I have and will continue, to support the addition of new technologies and services like 3rd party providers and the use of travel vouchers that give more flexibility and options to riders.

Despite an upheaval of daily routines this last year, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that we continue to get older as a population.

Currently, seniors have a 50% fare discount. No less important, the facilities and vehicles need to be clean and safe and services need to be reliable in order for people (of all ages) to ride. Older people may also benefit from a voucher program that offers greater flexibility and access.

Julien Bouquet

One of my first initiatives I would like to spearhead as a director would be lowering train and bus fares. This would also include lowering the discounted fares for elderly and disabled riders. We are one of the most expensive transportation networks in the entire country, and I want RTD to match the fare rates of other cities. I want to make sure all our riders do not feel priced out of using our services, especially riders who are reliant on RTD for their daily transportation needs.

I want all our riders to feel that they had a positive experience using RTD. That includes the price of fares, the ease of reaching a train or bus stop, the ease of accessing the vehicle, the cooperation of RTD staff with helping riders, and of course the ride itself. This is crucial for riders who use RTD as their sole means of transportation. As a director, I want riders to feel they have had a positive experience riding for every ride. I want to make sure our trains and buses arrive on time. I want to make sure all our vehicles have accessible features. And I want to make sure we keep RTD routes that people are truly reliant on.

I actually would love to hear from riders with disabilities and/or elderly riders. I want to know specifically how riders feel regarding overall accessibility, how riders feel about the Free Travel Training Program, and how route limitations, due to COVID, has had an effect on overall travel. If you or the CCDC would be interested, I would like to host a virtual listening session to hear from elderly riders and riders with disabilities. I want our riders to feel they have a voice.

If you are interested, let me know and we can begin planning a date. I also understand if there is already too much on your, or CCDC’s calendar. Thank you again for reaching out. I hope to speak with you in the future!


DISTRICT H – 3 Candidates

Roger Edwards

You asked for my platform on accessibility. I don’t have a platform. As you know the office of the Board of Directors is a nonpartisan office. Board members are there to provide governance for the staff. RTD has an internal function that addresses accessibility and I’m sure will advocate for that community.

My goal for RTD is excellence in public policy and that includes accessibility and many other aspects of serving the public.

Ragan Byrd – DNR
Doug Tisdale – DNR

District E – Uncontested

Paul Rosenthal

I’m very much interested in hearing your ideas for RTD. I’ve checked your website, and I agree with your motto of “nothing about us without us”. I read some of your documents, and I know that I can be an advocate for greater access, efficiency, and equity for people with disabilities on the RTD Board. I will be succeeding and speak regularly with Claudia Folska, who is visually impaired.

Even if the issue is more about city council, like not enough room on a sidewalk to get into a bus shelter, I can reach out to the appropriate authorities to advocate for you.

As you may know of my time in the legislature, I did extensive outreach to keep in touch with my constituents and with stakeholders on bills. I also included people and organizations who had never been in the Capitol building. So, I hope we’ll develop a close working relationship when I get on the board in January.


DISTRICT A – 2 Candidates

Kyle Bradell

I am Kyle Bradell and I am a candidate for RTD District A. For whatever reason, RTD appears to make accessibility and quality of service for the elderly and the disabled on the trains, buses, and Access-a-Rides difficult. I am sure it is not done on purpose. However, the decisions that this agency has taken over 30 years along with its slow-moving decision process makes me think they lack an understanding how to manage a transit system. As an example, the past three years I have been a volunteer member of RTD’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities (ACPD). At the August 2019 meeting, RTD wanted the Committee’s input on what to do with the increasing cases of riders using the wheelchair ramps (aka high-blocks) at light rail stations who are not disabled. These riders include people with scooters, luggage, bikes, baby carriages, etc. I provided a few ideas and solutions. One solution I shared was to have a simple sign installed that states: No Bicycles, No Scooters, No Baby Carriages, No Luggage. Nothing fancy, just straight to the point. Sadly, it has been over a year now and RTD has yet to make a decision — on a simple sign that would make it easier for disabled riders using the light rail ramps. I want to make it easier for the disabled and the elderly to use RTD. Here are just a few ideas and solutions I have to make life easier when using RTD:

1. Retrofit the light rail trains and stations similar to Dallas’ rail system. A retrofit will allow wheelchair riders additional access to board light rail trains than the present one door. This stems to the early 1990s when RTD bought the wrong kind of train.

2. RTD and the City of Denver need to include “heated sidewalks” the entire length of 16th Street Mall as part of the renovation project. “Heated sidewalks” would be a tremendous benefit to everyone strolling along 16th Street when there is snow. The elderly would be able to walk safely on dry sidewalks and the disabled, such as people in wheelchairs, would not be blocked by huge piles of snow and ice.

3. For bus stop improvements, I would like to see a sign installed at each stop informing riders who is responsible for the maintenance of the bus stop during snow storms, for example. Presently, one must call RTD and inform them the bus stop is inaccessible. RTD, then, contacts the respective government jurisdiction responsible for the bus stop and tells them to shovel the snow. I recommend for better operations of RTD that signs be posted saying which government jurisdiction is responsible for the bus stop along with a phone number. Thereby, one can bypass RTD completely and tell the city or county that the bus stop cannot be accessed.

These are just three solutions to make RTD more accessible for everyone while planning for the future. I have travelled to 56 countries around the world and, most of the time, I use public transportation. I have experienced and observed metro systems and I know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s time to tweak and streamline RTD so that everyone gets the most bang for their buck! Sincerely, Kyle Bradell Candidate for RTD District A www.kyleforrtd.com.

Kate Willaims

I am Kate Williams – I am the incumbent Director, District A, which basically geographically is Colfax south to Yale and I25 East to Yosemite- and this is a nonpartisan position that I have held for almost four years now. My predecessors are Bill James and Bill Elfenbein; I still meet with them both often and have learned how RTD became what it is today.
My first big news – RTD is in the process of hiring the first black female GM in our 50-year history –there were great candidates, and it was a very hard decision – with many hours of work.

I am a longtime advocate for older adults & those with disabilities – some of my prior positions include being a Resource Coordinator for the Blind (I made actual house calls); acting as the Executive Director of the largest provider of transit in Douglas County, which still is the Castle Rock Senior Center; and running a sports center for persons with disabilities in Florida, Shake A Leg Miami.

Now – I run RTD, and I run DRMAC, the Denver Regional Mobility & Access Council. You can read more on our website: https://www.drmac-co.org/about/our-vision/. For 15 years DRMAC has been helping older adults and persons with disabilities with transportation options; it is my “dream job”. It is what I do all day, every day; I live, work, use, and am dedicated to transit and to riders.

I am a Certified Community Transit Manager; I am a graduate of the Transit Alliance Citizen’s Academy; I run the CDOT Regional Coordinating Council for this area; I have chaired the RTD Operations and Customer Service committee for 3 years. I am on RTD’s ACPD (Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities); I serve on many other related committees, boards, advisory councils, and task forces. I have shared my office with a disability transit advocate who uses a wheelchair.
Some quick RTD facts – RTD covers 2,700 square miles, we have over 1,000 buses, and two types of trains. Do you know the difference between light rail and commuter rail, and which of our lines are which? (Everything north is commuter rail and all south is light rail- and they are very different). Pre COVID, we averaged 365,000 riders daily; now we are averaging 150,000 riders across the network.

I was asked to run based on my work in the community in transit and advocacy; I spend a lot of time in my District and throughout the larger RTD footprint – out in front of my local grocery I hear over and over that older adults who may someday not be able to drive need good transit services; essential workers need to be able to get to work; kids need to get to school. I believe that transit is a social determinate of health, and statistics show that those who depend on public transportation use it for access to health care, food sources, schools, social services, and more. My platform started with and still includes the need for more smaller shorter cheaper local circulators, with lots of mid-day runs. We want all of our public transportation to be different). Pre COVID, we averaged 365,000 riders daily; now we are averaging 150,000 riders across the network.

I was asked to run based on my work in the community in transit and advocacy; I spend a lot of time in my District and throughout the larger RTD footprint – out in front of my local grocery I hear over and over that older adults who may someday not be able to drive need good transit services; essential workers need to be able to get to work; kids need to get to school. I believe that transit is a social determinate of health, and statistics show that those who depend on public transportation use it for access to health care, food sources, schools, social services, and more. My platform started with and still includes the need for more smaller shorter cheaper local circulators, with lots of mid-day runs. We want all of our public transportation to be accessible, safe, clean, available, and dependable.

That is who I am, and this is what I do – transit, 24/7. I have spent 4 years learning the RTD system and finding out how to be effective for issues that affect all riders. It takes time to figure out what works and what does not – what is good for the people in my community – and what can be changed. I would like to have another 4 years to continue that work – I would like to see RTD move out of the current morass that we are in and into what we all envision it could and should be.


RTD SUMMARY (opinion by Jaime Lewis)

RTD’s efficiency and ability to increase ridership has been a challenge for them for the last five years. Rising cost, lower than expected ridership on new light rail trains, and of course COVID, has put this essential infrastructure for citizens mobility in dire straits.

In 2019, RTD established a Reimagine project. It was an effort to gather input from all corners of business, government, and stakeholders to imagine what RTD could look like in 2040. Unfortunately, as RTD’s financial problems started mounting, including a driver shortage and COVID the group’s focus was re-directed to what would it take to ensure RTD could survive the perfect storm.

Overwhelmingly, the needle starts pointing to a smaller operating area, lower frequency in outlying areas, and an assertive effort to increase the quality of service in high use areas.

A majority of these areas include low-income neighborhoods and communities that depend on RTD to get them to work. As you imagine, most of these areas are in urban areas of the district.

Current conditions will remain in place through the first two quarters of 2021. The run board, as they refer to it, will not change until RTD’s records increase in ridership. This is where RTD fails to serve its customers. How and why would a person want to return to RTD services if there is no improvement to service quality?

Ridership will not increase until RTD improves service in urban areas, though that action will cut deeper into their finances.

It’s the old adage, what came first, the chicken or the egg.

RTD, take care of your customers first.


Jaime’s Business Highlight

One of the things that drive me to be an advocate is to see the freedom and opportunities that people can take advantage of. The activities and access that seem so easy for people without a disability is often a challenge for our community members.

I’ve started highlighting places that have done an exceptional job preparing and making their business accessible. Not only complying with the law but fulfilling the spirit of the law. I will also report on places that are not in compliance.

Each entity I identify will be judged by basic criteria like:

  • Accessible entrance (power door)
  • Are their obstacles in the way?
  • Variety of table heights
  • Accessible restrooms
  • Staff attitudes

Of course, this list cannot be totally comprehensive because every business is different. However, we will apply a grade to each business visited to provide you with information on how accessible they are.

  • Level One Certification – There are no obvious obstacles or violations in the business. Employees are helpful and make every effort to make visitors welcome.
  • Level Two Certification – There are one or two issues that should be addressed but would not prevent a person from enjoying business.
  • Level Three – There are several violations that may impede a person from enjoying business.
  • Level Four – Not recommended for use.

URBAN PUTT

There is this outrageous show on Thursday nights called Holy Moly. It’s an over the top display of miniature golf. The program brought back such fond memories of the game, it prompted me to google “wheelchair accessible mini golf Denver”. To my surprise, there was a hit – Urban Putt.

Urban Putt is a restaurant/mini-golf course located at the Old Spaghetti Factory located at 1201 18th St. Denver, CO 80202.

Alex Lane, course manager, and Kete Blonigen were kind enough to talk to me after my first round. They were open to suggestions and changes that I presented to them that would make the experience enjoyable for people using mobility devices.

I was able to maneuver with my power chair about 85% of the course. Alex and Kete are currently making the changes that will make the course 100% accessible.

Urban Putt is following State guidelines for COVID prevention providing sanitized putters and balls. The staff wears masks and are constantly cleaning.
They offer a grabber stick for those who would have difficulty picking up the ball from the hole or floor. Some of the holes are quite adventurous and some are dark for special effects. For those with sight issues, bringing a small flashlight may not be a bad idea.

Urban Putt also has a full bar and an Americana food menu.

RATING 3

Note: Urban Putt passed most of the criteria that we expect from a fully accessible venue. However, there is no power door opener in the front. Each time that I have attended the staff was ready and willing to have the second door open for you as you enter.

www.Urbanputt.com/location/Denver


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Information received from CCDC’s employees or volunteers, or from this site, should NOT be considered a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. www.ccdconline.org DOES NOT provide any legal advice, and you should consult with your own lawyer for legal advice. This website is a general service that provides information over the internet. The information contained on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

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